The Birth of Jacky Faber, protagonist of Bloody Jack

My wife and I have a small art gallery in Bar Harbor, Maine, wherein we sell matted and framed prints of my art work. We sell quite a few of these prints and they all have to be matted and framed and, at the time, I was the one that got to do it.

While the work is gratifying - people are buying my artwork after all - it is repetitive and the mind is free to wander. So, one day in the summer of 2000, I'm framing away in my workshop and listening to British and Celtic folk music on our local community radio station, when the host of the program plays a long string of early nineteenth century songs that feature young girls dressing up as boys and following their boyfriends out to sea, the most well known of these being Jackaroe and Cana-di-i-o. These songs generally end up with the girl being found out quickly and threatened with being thrown overboard, but all ends happily when she either marries the boy or the captain.

It occurred to me, however, to wonder what it would be like if the girl, instead of seeking to be with her lover, connives to get on board a British warship in order to just eat regularly and have a place to stay, her being a starving orphan on the streets of early 1800's London. What would she have to do to pull off this deception for a long period of time? What if she goes through the changes of adolescence while on board in the company of 408 rather rough men and boys, and her not having much of a clue as to what is happening to her? What if this ship goes into combat and she has to do her dangerous duty? And, finally, what if she falls in love with one off the boys and can never tell him of her female nature?

I started making notes and seven months later Bloody Jack was done.

 
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